In Bawer’s telling, the white flag first waved in 1989. That year, Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, earned him a fatwa from Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini. In his decree, Khomeini called on Muslims across the world to hunt down and kill Rushdie and anyone involved in the book’s publication “so that no one will dare to insult Islamic sanctities again.” The fatwa forced Rushdie into hiding and led to the murder of his Japanese translator. But while many writers rallied to Rushdie’s defense, some perversely blamed the novelist for provoking his own death sentence. Oxford historian Hugh Trevor-Roper sneered that he “would not shed a tear if some British Muslims, deploring Mr. Rushdie’s manners, were to waylay him in a dark street and seek to improve them.” At the time, he writes, Bawer dismissed the Trevor-Roper view as an anomaly. Surely, he reasoned, most civilized people would defend free speech against its Islamist despisers. He was wrong.
Read all of Jacob Laksin's review of Bruce Bawer's new book.